Brittany Long describes herself as a music photographer on wheels. She has taken live performance photographs and portraits of the likes of Seth Sentry, Vera Blue, The Rubens, Thelma Plum and Vance Joy, just to name a few.
Brittany is determined to always get the best photos possible.
"I don't let the wheelchair stop me," she says. "I'm known for doing whatever it takes."
This might include donning kneepads to lie down or "slide" around on the floor. Recently, a client's outfit inspired the location for a photo shoot.
"She sent me a photo of a green dress," says Brittany. "I was like: How do you feel about getting in the water?"
Brittany knew the beach wasn't going to be accessible, so she left her wheelchair in the car and got to the shoreline by physically lifting her legs with her arms. A process that Brittany says required "a lot more exertion and effort" than rolling.
"I actually got in the water with the client, and it was like six degrees," she says.
"It was cold. It was wet. We were fighting the rain. We were fighting the wind. But honestly, the results speak for themselves."
'I got on my butt and physically went down the stairs'
Brittany is a self-taught photographer. After honing her skills photographing babies and families, she got her first taste of live music photography in 2018, when attending a P!nk concert.
Her mother had mentioned the show was visually spectacular. This prompted Brittany to purchase tickets with a clear view of the stage.
"I hadn't even worried about disability seating because it sucks," she says. "You're at the back of the stadium."
"I got on my butt and physically went down the stairs."
Being close enough to document the performance on film was life changing. Brittany says she discovered her "happy place".
"For me music photography is about capturing the passion, capturing the atmosphere, the emotion of people in the crowd and the people on stage."
Jelly arms and shuffling pants — the trials of accessing venues
"I have dedicated butt-shuffling pants," says Brittany.
"Just because of how much I'd wear them out sliding up and down the stairs."
Brittany often spends time researching the accessibility of music venues and festivals before attending a show. But this process can often be frustrating.
"It's actually quite hard to find a lot of information about venues," she says.
She says mobility aid users need to have clear information about a venue, including the exact number of stairs at the entrance, as well as the building's layout. Equally important is knowing the potential journey to get the venue, such as the location of accessible parking.
"That's one of the hardest things for me is not having that close proximity to the venue," says Brittany.
It is not uncommon that Long has to roll long distances to reach a venue, which leaves her arms feeling "like jelly".
While some festivals and venues have been trying to become more accessible, Brittany believes there is little consultation with disabled people. She says the experience of using these accessibility features can often feel sub-par, even exclusionary.
"Viewing platforms seem to have become a new staple addition at festivals, which is great," she says.
"But unless they allow people to see the stage, they are obsolete."
'There's this idea that people in the industry can't be disabled'
Brittany says there is even less accessibility information available for when she needs to work backstage. Including whether there are stairs to the Green Room or where the accessible toilets are located.
"There's this idea that people working in the music industry can't be disabled," she says.
"The same information that's communicated to patrons, often isn't communicated to people working within the industry."
This lack of accessibility information inspired Long to start the project Stairing Through the Lens.
Since 2019, Brittany has been photographing musicians on the stairs at music venues and festivals across Australia, highlighting that stairs are typically a big barrier for her, and showing what artists look like from her perspective in a wheelchair.
So far, she has taken more than 200 portraits. The series features artists like Sampa the Great, Passenger, Amy Shark and GFlip.
Brittany admits she was scared to start the project.
"I didn't want to be seen as making things difficult," she says.
"Especially as a photographer, I didn't want to get blacklisted because of speaking badly about certain venues or festivals. But now I'm just frustrated."
Brittany hopes that the project becomes a conversation starter about inclusivity.
"I want accessibility to stop being an afterthought," she says.
"And I want it to stop being a box-ticking exercise."
Fiona Murphy is the author of The Shape of Sound. She writes about Deafness and disability.
This article was commissioned as part of our coverage and celebration of International Day of People with Disability.